[Reprinted from an article in Kranzy Slovenska 12/69, pp. 444-448, translated from Slovak to German by Mrs. M. Smidova and translated from German to English by Hugh Merrick].


WE had originally asked for a permit to visit the Karakoram range and climb the Hidden Peak (8,068 m.). When the Foreign Ministry rang through to announce that a permit for Nanga Parbat (8,126 m.) was being offered, I must confess that I broke out into a sweat. I remembered the repeated onslaughts on that mountain and the disasters which had been enacted on its slopes in 1895, 1932, 1934, 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1950, claiming 32 lives in all. It was not till 1953 that Hermann Buhl was the first man to stand on its summit, carving for himself a unique niche in mountaineering history. In 1962 it was climbed a second time from the Diamir valley, claiming the death of yet another climber on the descent. Two further attempts, both from the Rupal nala, had failed.

1 heard the official's voice, asking: ' Do you accept ? We shall have to advise the Embassy in Pakistan at once. Of course, we had no choice ; but the very next moment I was already thinking of all the changes which would have to be made in our prepara¬tions, all the additional equipment we should have to acquire, if we were not to be too late to be ready for our new objective.

The laying-down of a budget and all the planning for which such an expedition calls are no great problem for anyone who has had previous experience of such arrangements. It is more difficult to see it all through to its satisfactory conclusion. Most difficult of all is the acquisition of the essential finance. To start with there were three of us working on all the preparations: Ivan Urbanovic, Zdenko Vashko, an Engineer, and I. We wrote dozens of letters to all sorts of organizations and institutions, asking some for money, others for equipment. Almost everyone was extremely helpful and we met with only two or three refusals.

Once we had won the support of the Slovak branch of the CSZTV and the Slovak Bratislava-Film, our financial situation was to all intents and purpose assured. Transport was another problem. Patra, the State motor-car factory, offered us a lorry at a bargain price ; we were, however, lucky enough to reach an understanding with the Central Slovak Forestry Department, which offered us the loan of a vehicle bought for the park in the Tatra Reserve.

By the end of 1968 the Committee for Physical Culture had finally decided on the composition of the party as follows: Leader Ivan Galfy, Doctor Juraj Janovsky, Cameraman Miloslav Filip, Public Relations Fr. Dostal. The remaining members were Milan Krishak, Josef Korshala, Zdenko Vashko, Ivan Urbanovic, Arno Pushkas, Jan Horam, Miroslav Jaskovsky and Juraj Weincziller.

With the exception of the cameraman and Jaskovsky, all came from the Tatra mountains. Jaskovsky was installed as our route expert, for he had already made the journey once with the Tirich Mir expedition.

Each member was allotted a special part in the preparatory work. We needed a variety of special equipment, which entailed personal visits to various undertakings in order to explain our requirements and ensure their co-operation. I should like to repeat that we met with understanding everywhere. We needed to fear no comparison with Western expeditions in respect of the equipment we obtained from our manufacturers.

We assembled our equipment in two rooms of the headquarters of the mountain-service in Smokovec. I doubted whether we could get it all on to our Tatra lorry, but to our great surprise it all went aboard, including our Moto Jawa 90, a present from the Powach Machine Works, which we intended to use for small shopping expeditions en route and for a link with the Gilgit Post Office.

Our Tatra 138, with Jan Horam and M. Jaskovsky as co-drivers, started out on its 8,000 kilometre journey on 2 April, by way of Hungary, Jugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan, to Pakistan. Pushkas who should have been with us was ill and had to catch us up by plane at Teheran, after a week at home. The remaining members flew straight out to Kabul via Prague, Moscow and Tashkent, arriving on the 16th. We, in our Tatra lorry, arrived there the following afternoon. From Kabul we went on together to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, where our Embassy is situated. There, two additional members joined the expedition: Muhammad Rashid Khan, our liaison officer, and Vladimir Vacata, our Ambassador's son. The formers assignment was to see that the expedition's relations with the local populace remained friction- free ; the latter, who had been on the Tirich Mir expedition and who was familiar with all local conditions, was also a great asset.

Pushkas was taken ill again at Islamabad and underwent an examination at the city's hospital, where he was advised to spend at least three weeks under medical observation ; so he remained there till his health improved. The rest of us continued our journey to Gilgit on the 24th travelling by air. In this we had a real stroke of luck, for the weather was fine and the whole of our 5,600 kg, baggage was also flown in on the same day. As it turned out, this was the only day in a fortnight when it was possible for the aircraft to fly, the weather turning bad again immediately.

From Gilgit we proceeded to the Rakhiot bridge in a local lorry. The road is unforgettable, running high above the Gilgit and Indus rivers along precipitous faces and cliffs ; parts of it keep on breaking away and hundreds of labourers are at work on it every day.

We all knew the Rakhiot bridge from reading about it. Built by the British in 1914-15, it provides the only link across the Indus between Gilgit and Chilas. There are actually two bridges today, the old one and the new larger one, built last year by the Pakistanis. The ascent into, the Rakhiot nala starts at once beyond the bridge, the first sector leading to the village of Toto, at 2,300 metres ; never having read a description of it, we were greatly surprised, for it goes straight up to 1,200 metres, then across a rocky spur at 2,700 metres, after which there is a short descent to the village.

It took three days to transport our equipment to Toto. Here I must mention our differences with the high-altitude porters. Only eight put in an appearance at the bridge ; there we equipped them fully, and promised them the daily ration of alcohol which they demanded, but they would have nothing to do with carrying anything from this point, saying that they were specialists, whose job did not begin till we reached Base Camp. All the same, they demanded their keep. As there would probably be no work for them for two or three weeks, we therefore dismissed them then and there.

We pitched a provisional camp on a ‘fairy meadow' at 3,200 metres and while the baggage was being carried up to it we ex¬plored the onward move up to Base Camp, whose site we recognized at once from photographs taken by previous ex¬peditions. It was below the great moraine, near the grave of Alfred Drexel, who died of pneumonia at Camp III during the attempt in 1934.

The site lay under a two-metre blanket of snow. We had to dig foundations for the tents and stamp out paths for the porters, work which was rendered more difficult by frequent snow-falls and our having to call a halt in the afternoons, when we were up to our hips in snow. In such conditions the porters were reluctant to carry anything up, demanding boots and clothing. We had only 10 complete outfits for porters, but if we wanted to see our stuff brought up, we would have to use them. So, for the first 10 days, 10 porters did their daily carry—far too slow an operation for our needs. If we wanted the porters to go up again the next day, we had to dry out their boots and clothing for them and get everything ready for the day's work. Later on when the trails had been more fully trodden down, 25 to 30 porters went up daily.

We pitched the first tent at Base Camp on 9 May at 4,000 metres. On the following day, the reconnaissance party took another up on to the great moraine and established Camp I at 4,500 metres. This remained unoccupied for more than 10 days, as we were fully occupied all this time in carrying all our gear up to the Base Camp.

Pushkas joined us there on 12 May, bringing with him our Ambassador and the Belgian Ambassador, M. Bayens, who stayed as our guests for five days.

Once the Base Camp was completed, we chose five high-altitude porters. They were: Shukur Rahmad as Sirdar, Nabi Mantas, Shukur Ahmed, Gasa Khan Sharif, Abdul Lafar and Karim Khan to act as the cook. -

The first few days at Base Camp were very uncomfortable. There were frequent snow-falls ; in the afternoon it would thaw, the tents were damp and water seeped in under them.

On 25 May we established Camp II, the route to which lay up the Rakhiot ice-fall, whose terrain altered every day. Indeed, a week later, we had to re-site the camp because huge ice towers were by then crashing down quite close to it. We put in fixed ropes on the sector just below the camp, to make things easier for the porters.

We set up our Camp III on the 30th. The route to it ran up the crevassed second ice-fall, menaced at several points by avalanches. This Camp III was on the big plateau, below Rakhiot Peak, at 6,100 metres, and was intended as the Advance Base for our assault on the summit. Snow fell incessantly for the whole of our first week up there, so we had to abandon it and retire to the lower camps. On 10 June we were able to move up again and stock the camp with supplies.

On the 16th we established Camp IV on the Rakhiot Saddle at 6,700 metres. From there the route lay straight to the top of Rakhiot Peak and on to the site of Camp V. On the 18th we protected the face of the peak with fixed ropes 350 metres long and so opened up the way to the summit. All we had left to do was to pitch the tent at Camp V, close to the 4 Mohrenkopf? (Moor's head), and then go for the top.

Our plan of attack was divided into four days. A party was to establish Camp V on the 19th, and the summit-team was to move into it the same evening. They were then to climb up on the following day to the Silver Saddle, where they would spend the night. On the 21st they would then make their bid for the summit.

Things, however, worked out quite differently. It started to snow on the 18th, and never stopped for a whole week. To make sure that not a moment was wasted when the weather turned fine again, a small party stayed up at Camp III, in the hope of making a dash for the summit. It begun to clear up on the 26th, but they had to wait a day for the avalanches to stop falling; then they set out to break a fresh trail to Camp IV, which they managed to do by the 28th, though the ascent was extremely exposed to avalanches and perilous to a degree. They found the camp buried under masses of snow, with only the tips of the tents sticking out. Unfortunately, snow set in again and they were forced back to Camp III. Meanwhile, the Pakistan weather service, which had been sending us a daily weather report, had been warning us for days of the approach of the monsoon. As there was no sign of any improvement in the weather by the time June ended, we started to evacuate the camps on 1 July.

Camp IV had to be abandoned, for the threat of avalanches forbade any attempt to go up there again ; and on the 3rd we began our withdrawal. As confirmation that we had left it till the last possible moment, all flights were cancelled from the 7th onwards because of the monsoon. Our baggage did not reach Gilgit till a week later, when it proved possible to resume the air service.

The whole party made the return journey in our lorry, arriving home in the High Tatra on 7 August.

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